A Marxist, it is said, is someone who loves humanity in groups of a million or more. Those darn Marxists, so devoted to their unworkable ideal they don’t even care that not everybody went home with a potato today! Who could be so obtuse?
Thank you for asking. A feminist could be that obtuse. A feminist loves women in groups of a million or more. What matters to a feminist is the abstract ideas a person claims to have about “women.” How a person treats the real live women to whom he or she is closest is irrelevant.
To avoid the reputation-destroying charge of sexism, a person (let’s say a man for ease of pronouns) must pass a number of tests. He must profess that any measured evidence that men generally excel women in some desirable area of performance is due to sexism. He must profess that there is no difference in individually experienced benefit or harm between sexually involved men and women. He must profess that the historical place of women in the home is a shameful result of male disdain and tyranny. He must profess that there is no difference between mothers and fathers, and that expecting women to care for children is arbitrary and wrongheaded.
As for how he treats his wife, daughters, mother, sisters: who cares? Families are just whatever. What matters is if his Spotify channel has an equal number of male and female performers. What matters is how many women he names if you ask him who the ten most important Americans are. What matters is if he noticed how many times the men at the meeting interrupted the women.
The feminist must think always of women, but never any one woman. It makes sense: any one woman may be nosy, needy, uptight, or un-hot. Who cares about that loser? But “women” as an imagined bloc are a glorious height of noble suffering. Anything that fails to venerate St. Woman as she wishes to be venerated is anathema.
So, suggesting that the two-income household economy might be systemically inefficient and classist is sexist. Pointing out that women have more to lose by promiscuity is sexist. Noticing that women are less reliable employees because we all need reliable relatives is sexist. Any violation of the operative standard of feminist orthodoxy is sexist. Declaring sexism negates any love and sacrifice the sexist manifests by his words and actions toward his female family members and neighbors.
Harms, Real and Imagined
But who harms society more? A man who loves and provides for his family, and thinks the state was better run when the franchise was held only by property owners? Or a man who has rid himself of all the women he’s used as gamete disposal units but knows how to sneer “Barefoot and pregnant!” with just the right timbre of contempt?
Feminists hate the guy with an abstract academic opinion that has no chance of being tried today. The guy for whom breathing women mean as much as a hotel towel is fine, as long as he never says anything that makes it sound like he thinks men are smarter than women. He can enjoy that opinion privately while he dupes another dupe-able female—a type he has observed to exist, but does not speak of because then he’d be sexist—into his bed. Hey babe, I totally support babes having a room of babes’ own. Want to show me yours?
So, a man who believes only men should be ordained as ministers is a sexist even though he visits his arthritic mother every day to peel her orange. A man who pays for women to take off their clothes on the Internet (or, better yet, doesn’t pay) is a feminist because he’ll tell anyone how the female partners at his firm bring so much to the practice. Feminists strain out John Chrysostom and swallow Bill Clinton. (Lest we seem to be impugning only men here: if Mrs. Albright is right about hell, that special place she mentioned is packed due to this question alone.)
This doesn’t mean that anyone who has done any woman a very personal wrong should be lynched. It only means that doing a woman a very personal wrong is more consequentially hurtful and therefore worse for society than a married man choosing not to have female friends on Facebook, or anybody thinking that the only watchable women’s sport is figure skating. It means that shattering the hearts of a wife and daughters is more misogynist than thinking it’s kinda sweet when a new mom can’t bring herself to go back to work. It means flirting with someone else’s husband demeans all three of you more than it does to wish your son had a male teacher.
Ideas Don’t Hurt Women, People Hurt Women
Decisions and actions are all the outcome of ideas and values. It might be worth asking why people with such horrible ideas as “It’s okay there aren’t many female air traffic controllers” often manage to get through life with the respect of their neighbors and love of their intimates.
Moreover, it’s a much worse idea to see sexism as the explanation for every setback in a woman’s life. By definitionally vacating all other criticisms, feminists become mired in one-dimensional thinking. Any failure a woman experiences is due to sexism, not her own weaknesses or choices. Unfortunately for feminist thought, a person who can never be culpable can also never be creditable. However, it is sexist to notice this, because criticizing feminism is sexist.
Marxism was tried in human history and found egregious. The feminism experiment is being run less efficiently, largely because the definition and program of feminism have been crowdsourced to “women” rather than one dangerously brilliant philosopher. The feminism-Marxism comparison also breaks down because instead of really wanting to better the lot of the lower classes, crowdsourced feminism needs Taneesha, Pilar, and Amber to feel happy and fulfilled making our salads, emptying our wastebaskets, and wiping our kids’ noses while we work at the jobs we deserve.
But even at this intermediate stage in the experiment, it’s clear that feminism doesn’t mean treating an actual woman with kindness and respect. It doesn’t mean snowblowing Grammy’s driveway, sitting through Ava’s ballet recital, helping Lisa with her taxes, or fixing mom’s busted three-hole punch. Least of all does it mean staying married to Ava’s mom or not sexting Ava’s dad. Feminism means believing women (whoever they are) can and should do anything (whatever that is) that men (whoever they are) do.
My potato, please?